May 20, 2009 by
47-Million-Year-Old Fossil Suggests Primate Link
"Ida," or Darwinius masillae, is just one of the many missing links that make their way to the divergence of primate evolutionary paths, one of which produced the primate forms of monkeys, apes, and humans, and another which produced animals such as lemurs. In fact, the gap is so large in the known fossil record, scientists are uncertain exactly where the divergence began.
Still, "Ida" has a lemur-like skeleton.
"Ida" also has primate characteristics such as opposable digits, grasping hands, nail-less fingers (as opposed to claws), and relatively short limbs. Since the newly discovered missing link is dated as being from the Eocene era, a time period from which few fossil records have been found, the fossil will be entered into the religion versus science debate.
For scientists, the more important aspect of Darwinius masillae is that it was found in Germany, which might point toward Europe as being more important in the evolutionary spectrum than was heretofore believed. And regardless of where "Ida" stands on the evolutionary path, one thing is unique about the fossil: It is amazingly preserved.
The 47-million-year-old fossil allowed paleontologists to study the fossilized record of fur, soft tissue, and even the remains of the animal's last meal, which consisted of seeds, fruits, and leaves.So is Jorn Hurum's "Ida" really a missing link, another stop on the evolutionary road that has led to the present, or is she just another singularly unique prehistoric creature? "Ida" is both. Her existence will not "prove" or "refute" the argument that every creature was "designed" for a singular purpose, nor will it prove or discount evolutionary theory.
The missing link found at the Messel Pit in Germany suggests itself as a link in the overall concept of evolution and the record of life on the planet, just another piece of the puzzle. Whether one believes that Darwinius masillae was created by an omniscient force or was the end result of ages of natural selection -- or a combination of the two methods of thinking -- becomes the province of subjective accommodation.